I’m big on making the garden a multi sensory treat. Something for the eyes, the tastebuds, the fingertips and especially the nose. Today’s show for the nose specialty is citrus. Lance Walheim, long time garden book author and rare citrus grower, talks about using bergamot oranges for infusing in gin. Plus, other citrus varieties that will offer something for your nose as well as taste buds in whatever kind of drink you add citrus. Don’t know what a bergamot orange is? You’ve come to the right place to find out what it is and how to grow it, as well as clear up the internet confusion about what a bergamot orange really looks like.
We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory. It’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots. And we will do it all in less than 30 minutes. Let’s go!
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Pictured: Bergamot Orange
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GB 232 Citrus Infused Beverages TRANSCRIPT
Farmer Fred 0:00
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred is brought to you by Smart Pots, the original lightweight, long lasting fabric plant container. It's made in the USA. Visit SmartPots.com slash Fred for more information and a special discount, that's SmartPots.com/Fred.
Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good gardening information, you've come to the right spot.
I’m big on making the garden a multi sensory treat. Something for the eyes, the tastebuds, the fingertips and especially the nose. Today’s show for the nose specialty is citrus. Lance Walheim, long time garden book author and rare citrus grower, talks about using bergamot oranges for infusing in gin. Plus, other citrus varieties that will offer something for your nose as well as taste buds in whatever kind of drink you add citrus. Don’t know what a bergamot orange is? You’ve come to the right place to find out what it is and how to grow it, as well as clear up the internet confusion about what a bergamot orange really looks like. Here’s a hint: a mature bergamot orange is yellow and smooth, not green and lumpy.
We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory. It’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots. And we will do it all in less than 30 minutes. Let’s go!
CITRUS INFUSED BEVERAGES, PART 1
We're talking with Lance Walheim. He began gardening when he was 10 years old growing up in Belmont, California and he transferred his love of plants into a bachelor's degree in botany from UC Berkeley. Soon after graduating he was a writer and he worked on several books including the Ortho series of garden books, the Sunset garden books and citrus books as well. When he got out of writing he ended up with a citrus ranch in central California in Tulare County. And there he created California Citrus Specialties, marketers of hard to find citrus fruit, like blood oranges, pommelos, citrus hybrids. And then one day… well, I'll let him tell the story. Lance Walheim is here. And Lance, It's a pleasure talking with you. I've talked with you for a number of years. Debbie Flower is here as well, America's favorite retired horticultural professor.
Debbie Flower 2:28
Yeah, I'm here.
Lance Walheim 2:30
Hi Debbie, it's great to talk to you, Fred.
Farmer Fred 2:31
You're now in the alcohol business.
Lance Walheim 2:35
Some people would say I've been there all my life. All right. When we had California Citrus Specialties, we got approached by a lot of different people that were trying to do various different things, such as infusions of olive oils and making Limoncello, and all sorts of things. And I talked to a distiller at one point, and he was telling me that he uses bergamot in one of his gins and I said, Well, I grow fresh bergamots. We started taking small slices of the rind of the bergamot and putting it in the drinks, gin and tonics mainly. And the flavor was just so fantastic, that I kept saying I gotta make a gin with this and I never had a real good distiller that I really hooked up with that was really interested in the citrus. But I was in Atascadero (CA) one day. My wife was doing business there and I happen to stumble across the Central Coast Distillery, which is owned by Eric Olson and he's kind of a mad scientist of Craft spirits. He teaches classes at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and does wonderful things. The place was closed, I knocked on the window, he let me in. And before I know it, we were tasting gins and I told him what I grew and gradually I brought more and more different fruits over for him to try. We also looked at doing something with the Yuzu. The gin started to come together. It took us six different batches till we got it to where we wanted it. The response has just been fantastic. The flavor and the aroma is really unique. I really wanted a bergamot orange forward gin, also with a strong Juniper flavor. And then we even put a little bit of tea in it, a little fennel, and some other botanicals. but I didn't want to cloud it up too much with a lot of different flavors. So we really let the bergamot stand out and it just blends so well with the juniper berries, plus with tonic water that it just makes a gin and tonic that's I think is magical.
Farmer Fred 4:34
While I'm opening up a can of tonic water here. Perhaps you can go back and tell people who may be thinking that you were talking about an assault weapon, exactly what a yuzu is?
Lance Walheim 4:46
Oh, a yuzu is a Japanese fruit that we also grow. so we we tried growing a number of Asian fruits, Yuzu was very successful. It's a Japanese fruit is used in ponzu sauce traditionally, then also in other recipes. It is very popular. And we also grow a Sudachi, which is a like an Asian lime. The yuzu is a bumpy, very aromatic, with a distinctive piney type of aroma. And you can find it in some Japanese vodkas for instance, but it's it's a real unique fruit as well.
Farmer Fred 5:19
What's interesting, I just added some tonic water to this glass of Walheim Ranch Gin that you provided us with, thank you so much for that. Sure. 50% ABV.
Lance Walheim 5:31
It's that's it's good stuff. Again, we didn't want to do anything that was going to dilute the flavor of the bergamot and you're probably already also noticing if you're having your drink on the ice that the gin clouds up a little bit. Now when I first saw that, I thought Oh, no What the heck happened? But it turns out to makes sense. Those are the bergamot oils that when they get cold, they get a little bit milky. Just to prove to you that we're using fresh fruit. Like I said, the bergamot has a history of being used in gins, but it's mostly the dried fruit that comes from Calabria or Western Africa. We were really one of the first successful plantings in California. It’s really the fact that we were able to use that fresh fruit, the fresh rind, which really I think gave it the unique flavor. It's a lot more work to do with fresh rind, you have to peel them very carefully to make sure you just get as much of the color of the rind as you can, because that's where the oils are. Also, since the bergamot hangs on the tree for quite a while, the oil in the fruit can also change. So you're also testing the batches as you go along. Olson was a master at this so he was able to pull it off.
Farmer Fred 6:55
I was amazed to discover that the aroma of the bergamot still shines through even with the addition of tonic water.
Lance Walheim 7:03
Yeah, and a lot of people won't know the bergamot fruit itself, but they'll recognize the flavor from the Earl Grey tea which is the main flavor component.
Debbie Flower 7:13
So I googled bergamot orange, and a couple of pictures came up one is green, kind of pear shaped and very bumpy and another is yellow also kind of pear-shaped but smoother. Are those both bergamots?
Lance Walheim 7:28
No, there's a lot of misinformation out there on the on the internet. And one of them is that people think that yuzu is the bergamot, which it's not. They're distinctly different. The Bergamot is the yellow, much larger fruits, much denser, and has a completely different aroma from the rind. So yeah, that's the other one's probably a Yuzu.
Farmer Fred 7:51
okay, for the home scientists out there who may imbibe and has access to some citrus. Can you do this at home?
Lance Walheim 7:59
You can make a gin at home. they used to call it bathtub gin, and you basically start with a neutral spirit . For Walheim ranch gin, we used corn alcohol, but you can use a vodka which is also a neutral spirit. And you can basically just add some juniper berries, and then any other types of flavors that you want. Citrus peels are very popular in gins also. From there it goes on to anything: Forest root, Coriander, cardamom, there's Rosemary, lavenders. You can almost do whatever you want play around with it. That's kind of why it's so much fun.
Farmer Fred 8:40
Yeah, I would think that you could also experiment with non alcoholic beverages as well.
Lance Walheim 8:45
You certainly could. So here's a good question for two expert gardeners. What is the shrub?
Farmer Fred 8:53
It is a shorter tree that doesn't live as long as a tree.
Debbie Flower 8:58
in teaching, I would say that it was typically 15 feet or shorter and multi-stemmed at the soil line.
Lance Walheim 9:05
Well You're both wrong. It is an infused fruit sugar and vinegar drink. you heat it up to be added to different cocktails, Or it can be just diluted with water and drink it. Drink it straight in the morning. So it's a vinegar based infusion. We over the years we probably were involved in the fusion just about everything. We did oils. We did vinegars. You can do it with just basic water or tonic water. One of the fun things we did we worked with an olive oil maker up in Napa Valley. And they had actually made their olive oil on an old stone grinding wheel. And so when they they wanted to make a Meyer lemon flavored oil, they just throw the lemons on there with the olives and they'd crush it all together. Get the oils out with the olive oil and then they centrifuge it to get the juice out. And it just made a wonderful flavor of olive oil. They're also in from Italy, you can get Bergamot olive oil. So there's a lot of different ways to infuse things. bitters is an infusion that includes alcohol. We even sold orange blossoms, Valencia orange blossoms, to a distiller one time, and he distilled those and got the flavor of the orange blossom, in a vodka I believe it was, whenever you're in a hotel or you're in a bar, they're constantly infusing different things whether it just means putting lemons in, in some ice cold water with cucumbers. I was in a bar one time and they had those big tanks that they infused pineapple or whatever kind of fruit they want with vodka and this particular bottle was full of Buddha's hand Citrons, and then filled with vodka. So you can get a vodka drink that was infused with the flavor of Buddha's hand Citron, which again, is really unique and a great idea.
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CITRUS INFUSED BEVERAGES, PART 2
Let's get back to our conversation with Lance Walheim about citrus infusions. For people who don't know, explain the Buddha's hand.
Lance Walheim 13:09
the Buddha's hand is a Citron which is one of the oldest kinds of citrus and it forms a hand with fingers pointing down and no two Buddha's hands are the same. They're like snowflakes. They can make every kind of design. if you look online, you'll see him that I'm not describing it very well. There's also a regular Buddha's hand which is used in some Jewish religious ceremonies. And both of them have just a really aromatic rind if you've ever grown a Citron you know you can put it in your kitchen and your whole house will just smell a wonderful with the aromas from the rind. I've had Citrons cooked in a lot of different ways. It makes a great sauce for chicken. You kind of make a sweet sauce, like a syrup, and you put that on the chicken. It's very good.
Farmer Fred 13:56
Isn't it the zest you're putting on?
Lance Walheim 13:58
Yes, absolutely. If you're familiar with cooking with citrus and making infusions, you know that that white part of the rind can give you an off flavor. What most people are making with infused waters or things is just slicing the whole fruit and put that in there. But if you really want the intense flavor, use those oils that are in the rind, the colored portion of the citrus.
Farmer Fred 14:20
So what do you think is next in the world of gin or vodka for flavoring from the world of citrus? We have Mandarin vodka already.
Lance Walheim 14:28
That's right, that’s the big question. Years ago we went looking for outlets for our bergamots and yuzus, which are used as flavorings. And I went to a tea conference in Las Vegas, and they have all these dried fruits and flavorings. And so this guy told me Oh, yeah, we have a Yuzu flavoring. And I said, you're kidding. How do you make that? Well, he hemmed and hawed and then he said, could you send us some fresh fruit so we could see what it tastes like. He didn't have any idea what it used to tasted like, but they're making use of flavoring. But yeah, I mean, there's lots of different options. We are playing around with the yuzu. I'm interested in possibly doing some bitters, which is also an infusion with alcohol, and also various spices and herbs and fruits. So I think, the world of citrus is just so big. The Lincove station (in Central California) has up to 500 varieties of citrus. And down in Riverside, I don't know how many they've got down there. But there's a whole world of opportunities and a lot of these trees are starting to become more available. So it's really fun for people to play with that and they can do an infusion of just simple water if they want or make their own gin or flavor, add some vodka or just make some interesting cordials.
Farmer Fred 15:48
The Lincove event is a popular event when they open it up to the public. The Lincove facility is run by the University of California, it's in central California. And I think it's on one Saturday in December or January, where they open to the public.
Lance Walheim 16:02
It's usually the first week of of December. And they have one day which is open for commercial growers. And then they have another day that's open for home gardeners. And they'll have over 200 varieties of citrus to taste. And you can see what's new and what's been released. And there's some exciting stuff coming up around the corner. I know you're familiar, I'm sure with the fingered limes, the Australian finger lime. It's a native to Australia, and the ones you usually see in the nurseries produce a fruit that may have a little bit of pink tinge in it , in the vesicles, which you squeeze out like caviar, but they've got some new varieties they are releasing that are just darker red, almost like a blood orange. They have really big vesicles. And those should be out before too long. I gotta be careful not to talk about stuff, but I know it's been released by the university. So it takes a while to build up the propagation materials. Fantastic stuff.
Farmer Fred 17:00
Let's talk a little bit about growing some of these citrus varieties in your own backyard or perhaps in the house. A bergamot orange, what is it's cold tolerance in citrus growing areas? And can you grow one in the house and still get that same aroma?
Lance Walheim 17:16
I don't know anybody who's tried the bergamot inside, but because it's an acid fruit, acid fruits are easier to get to the ripening stage when they're grown indoors, or a combination of indoors-outdoors, whichever way you do it. but I would suspect that you would be able to. And actually, the young fruit of a bergamot, even when it's completely green, still has that aroma. It's very intense. But yeah, I would think that would be a good option, to grow inside. It's a real pretty tree. It's got bright green leaves, large leaves, it also has large, very fragrant flowers. So yeah, I would give it a try.
Farmer Fred 17:52
As long as you can find it somewhere.
Lance Walheim 17:56
You can get it from Four Winds Growers.
Farmer Fred 17:58
Okay, so by mail order, if somebody outside the Four Winds service area wants to try it,
Lance Walheim 18:03
Or they can ask their local nursery in California to order a tree for them.
Farmer Fred 18:07
Yeah, exactly. The growing zone for a Bergamot isn't that cold hardy, you said earlier. And I'm not exactly sure what that means.
Lance Walheim 18:18
Well, yeah, it could have been stated, you know, we don't know exactly what the temperatures are, it's more like a duration. I have found the tree itself to be hardy, but the fruit may freeze fairly easy because as we all know , any fruit that’s got sugar in it, it's like almost antifreeze but a very acidic fruit, especially a dense fruit like that. If it gets really cold for over three to four hours. It dries out on the inside. It didn't really affect the rind too much. So you may still be able to use the rind. I think anywhere you could grow a regular orange. It might be a little less hardy. I mean, 28 degrees should be plenty.
Farmer Fred 18:57
That's not bad. It's not like a liMe where the cutoff point is gonna be 32 degrees.
Lance Walheim 19:02
Yeah, and when you're talking about new varieties that aren't widely tested yet, there's a little uncertainty as to how that hardiness is. but I wouldn't find it any more trouble. it's not as hardy as a Meyer lemon. But Meyer lemons are the same way: the fruit is very tender so it'll get frozen way before the tree will. So I think if you're living anywhere, you could grow an orange, it'd be worth a try.
Farmer Fred 19:27
anything you want to add to this?
Lance Walheim 19:31
Yeah, if you're ever down along the coast of central California, you can pick up the gin. Of course, mailorder at third base markets and spirits.com which is over on the central coast. But if you're ever driving up 101 and go through Atascadero and you want to go visit Eric Olson, its central coast distillery. it's really worth it. If you're into crafts spirits. I'd suggest you check his website out because it's a small place and it's not open. It's usually open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. So Make sure you're there when it's open.
Farmer Fred 20:01
We'll have a link to that in the show notes. I imagine if somebody just googled the phrase Walheim Ranch gin, something would pop up.
Lance Walheim 20:10
It certainly would.
Farmer Fred 20:13
Well, it's a new adventure for you, that's for sure.
Lance Walheim 20:16
Yeah, it sure is. But and, you know, I never really thought we'd get this far. But we even won a medal in a competition already. And I'm just so happy with the label and the way that the taste is. Who knows what's gonna happen. it wasn't cheap to get it all started up and running. But now you got the label, you know how to make it. And so maybe it'll be easier to do.
Farmer Fred 20:42
All right, do you have to license that gin to other places to mass produce it?
Lance Walheim 20:46
Well, we haven't yet. Our plan is to quadruple the production this fall. The initial was only about 250 bottles. So we're slowly ramping it up. We'll have a good idea what the response has been. And then you have to get distributors to do it. And like anything else, just like the citrus business, the more people that touch the bottle, the less money gets back to you. it's an interesting market, it all had to be tested by the government. And then we had to make some changes on the labels because we said things that they didn't like. it was originally Walheim Ranch bergamot gin, but that change the declassification of it, and I didn't want to do that. so it's now just Walheim ranch gin, but it's Bergamot forward.
Farmer Fred 21:40
Are you planting more bergamot?
Lance Walheim 21:42
we are planting more Bergamots outside. I've got a good partner, actually the person that bought the ranch from us down there, he has got another citrus ranch in and we are going to do some more planting.
Farmer Fred 21:54
All right, it's tasty too. Besides having a wonderful aroma,
Lance Walheim 21:58
yeah, it really makes a good gin and tonic. And if you had a Bergamot tree in your backyard and you took a little squeeze of the peel, peeled it and rubbed it around the edge of the glass and then threw it in the drink, You'd really have something.
Farmer Fred 22:13
Well there you go. And another thing for people to do. All right. Lance Walheim, I don't know how to describe you anymore.
Debbie Flower 22:21
A man of many talents.
Farmer Fred 22:22
Man of many talents. Book author, citrus grower, and now hooch manufacturer of Walheim Ranch gin. Lance, always good talking with you. Thanks for your time.
Lance Walheim 22:36
Great talking to you guys too. Thanks, Fred.
BEYOND THE GARDEN BASICS NEWSLETTER
Farmer Fred 22:44
If you listened to our chat with citrus grower Lance Walheim about citrus infused beverages, you may have heard him mention that the zest or the rind can have a strong aroma even if that citrus tree is grown indoors. In the next Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter, Lance has the tips for successfully growing a citrus plant indoors, no matter where you live.
Find a subscription link to the newsletter in today’s show notes, or visit our website, Garden Basics dot net, where you can sign up to have the free, Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter and podcast delivered to your inbox each Friday. Also at Garden Basics dot net, you can listen to any of our previous editions of the Garden Basics podcast, as well as read a transcript of the podcast episode you are listening to now.
For current newsletter subscribers, look for How To Grow Citrus Indoors in the next Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter, coming out on the morning of Friday, September 30th, in your email. Take a deeper dive into gardening, with the Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter. And it’s free. Find the link in today’s show notes or at garden basics dot net.
SHOWS FOR THE NOSE
Did you ever wonder why certain aromas trigger long ago memories? For instance, I remember as a child visiting Uncle Hubert at the family farm outside of Beach North Dakota. The lasting memory from that trip? That was my first encounter smelling a freshly broken rotten goose egg. And now, whenever that aroma hits my nostrils, I’m transported back to the family farm.
An article in the Nov. 27, 2019 issue of Discover Magazine explained why certain aromas invoke powerful, vivid memories from a long time ago.
Smell is the only sense that doesn’t pass through the thalamus - an egg shaped structure in the middle of your brain - before reaching the forebrain. The thalamus functions as an operator switchboard of sorts, connecting sensory inputs from our eyes, ears, tongue and touch to the right parts of the brain so we can register and make sense of them. However, scent - what you smell - bypasses this switchboard entirely, in favor of a direct line. What’s more, the bundle of nerves that detects scent molecules, the olfactory bulb, has a high density of connections near the other parts of the brain which are involved in emotional response and memory formation, respectively.
That's why smells make our brains form strong, emotionally important memories and at a subconscious level.
The same is true for many of the plants that you have in the garden. One of my favorite aromas is the scent that you pick up when you rub your finger lightly along a young tomato plant stem. When that smell hits my brain, I know it’s spring and a harvest of fresh, juicy tomatoes is just a few months away. Oh, and I also love the aroma of fish emulsion fertilizer, a reaction that is not shared with any of my neighbors, apparently.
What’s your favorite garden aroma? Let me know.
And Right now, Chuck smells great at night. In this case, “Chuck” is the Brugmansia variety, “Charles Grimaldi.” Brugmansia, also known as “Angel’s Trumpet”, is a fast-growing, flowering shrub that can get 10 feet tall in two or three years.
The show-stopper part of this plant is the nearly non-stop bloom in mild areas. This Brugmansia features huge (over a foot long), yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers. An added bonus in late spring and early summer is the warm evening aroma of those blooms, when the air is still: a pleasant, perfume-like scent that hits your nose as soon as you step into the yard. It does best with some afternoon shade and regular watering.
A word of warning about this plant: all parts are considered poisonous, so it may not be right for the gardener living with indiscriminate munchers, either pets or children. However, there are plenty of other plants available that give off a warm-weather show for the nose in the evening:
• Nocturnal daylilies (Hemerocallis). Nocturnal daylily flowers open late in the afternoon and stay open throughout the evening until the morning. Many named hybrids are available, including the fragrant Arctic Ruffles, Nathan Carroll, Full Moon Rising and Winds of Tide.
• Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa). The blooms of this perennial tuber, a native of Mexico, will fill your backyard with a heady scent during summer evenings. The grass-like leaves can get to three feet tall, with white, tubular flowers clustered at the top. A good choice for containers, the tuberose needs regular water to look its best.
• Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris). The fragrant, tubular flowers of this tender perennial (usually planted as an annual) are attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies. The plant itself gets about four to five feet tall and two feet wide.
• Four O' Clocks (Mirabilis jalapa). This tuberous rooted perennial grows quickly to three feet high and wide, with trumpet-like flowers in white, red or yellow that open at about the time you get home from work. Although the top will die back from a freeze, it will usually sprout the following spring.
• Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides). A popular evergreen twining vine. It is most noted for the fragrance of its small, white flowers this time of year. Can be used against a trellis, or as a spreading ground cover. Does well with afternoon shade and regular water.
• Moonflower (Ipomoea alba). A relative of the morning glory, the moonflower is a perennial vine that shoots up 20 feet or more in one season, perfect for a fence or trellis. The six-inch white flowers are quite fragrant, and open in the evenings or cloudy days.
• White Evening Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa). Grows about a foot tall and wide. This perennial has fragrant, three-inch white flowers that put on their profuse blooming show during summer evenings.
Garden Basics With Farmer Fred comes out every Tuesday and Friday and is brought to you by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. Garden Basics is available wherever podcasts are handed out. For more information about the podcast, visit our website, GardenBasics dot net. That’s where you can find out about the free, Garden Basics newsletter, Beyond the Basics. And thank you so much for listening.